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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 May 2006, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
Why the days of e-commerce are over
By Tim Weber
Business editor, BBC News website

After nearly seven years the BBC News Website closes its e-commerce index - so why has its time come and gone?

Do you remember the heady days of the first internet boom?

Investors poured billions of dollars into dotcom ventures with fragile business plans.

Software companies promised the digital nirvana was around the corner.

And the media were awash with stories of people who "got the web": the online retailers with their virtual shop assistants; the companies tendering for business online, even the monks that made a fortune selling cheese on the web.

It was the right time to launch an e-commerce section, because despite all the hype it was obvious that the internet was fundamentally changing the way we do business.

The e-commerce index was our opportunity to highlight and explain this trend.

Why the first e-commerce revolution failed

It's been a wild ride ever since - well, as wild as business stories ever get.

Plenty of dotcom ventures have gone bust. Management consultants have cooled on TMT - Telecoms, Media and Technology. And we are still waiting for the internet to become truly mobile. Remember those fancy adverts about how Wap would change the world? Well, most of us are still happy to stick with talking and texting.

Much of the world around us has been touched by the e-commerce revolution - from Bradford and Boston to Bangalore and Beijing

Many of the promises made at the turn of the century fell victim to a lack of internet bandwidth and computing power.

And so the real internet revolution began where both were readily available.

While e-commerce failed in its first attempt to conquer the High Street, it quickly revolutionised the corporate world.

Beyond the ghetto

Streamlined logistics, flat manufacturing, virtual companies, software-as-a-service, outsourcing and off-shoring... the buzzwords come thick and fast.

The productivity gains of the past decade and today's rapid rate of globalisation could not have been achieved without the internet and e-commerce.

Boo.com screenshot
Many e-commerce ideas quickly went from boo.com to bust

Now, finally, high-speed broadband is reaching more and more consumers and starting to change their lives.

Today not much of the world has been left untouched by the e-commerce revolution - from Bradford and Boston to Bangalore and Beijing.

The UK's largest supermarket, Tesco, is also the country's largest online retailer. The movement of beer kegs is tracked by radio tags and monitored through the internet. Little bed-and-breakfasts notice a surge in bookings once they are online.

Even the ultimate touchie-feelie sector of retailing - the rag trade - is soaring on the internet.

Today, the word "e-commerce" itself sounds slightly outdated - circa 1999.

Our readers seem to agree. Once the most popular sub-section of our business pages, these days the e-commerce index regularly comes bottom of the rankings.

Closing down the e-commerce section doesn't mean we will report any less about how new technology is changing our lives.

But e-commerce has long outgrown its little ghetto as a sub-section of the Business index.

E-commerce is everywhere.


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